New Spirituality

Heard an interesting lecture this morning by Robert Doornenbal during our monthly staff meeting (called ‘Pitstops’). We are currently exploring different trends in society that affect our work and ministry, and Robert shared some insights in new spirituality, being one of those trends. Some of the stuff he mentioned is worthwhile repeating:

  • Recent research shows that 30% of the Dutch call themselves spiritually unbound, and are potentially interested in new spirituality
  • The Da Vinci Code is one of the best examples of an integrated new spirituality that seems to be very attractive to many.
  • Many of the paradigms proclaimed are echoing biblical concepts: unity, wholeness, hope and positivity, to name a few; at the same time, they are put in an outright anti-biblical context.
  • Characteristics of new spirituality are a.o.: experiential, subjective authority (only accept what rings true to your own inner self), truth-relativism, eclectic and syncretic, holistic, pragmatic (if it works, it is true). Also sacralising the self (you are god, god is you), sacralising the psyche (The Secret: thoughts become things).

It is remarkable how deep this new spirituality has entered into all spheres of society, whether it be social circles, arts, culture, business and management, even government. It is also remarkable how little this whole topic is recognised and addressed by the church(es). And it was interesting to notice our own reaction this morning on some of the things Robert said and suggested – much of it out of fear and uncertainty.

The basic assumption however should be that in God and in Jesus Christ, we have a perfect spirituality that addresses all needs and longings of people – we have better news than most people expect! And to connect to those part of this new spirituality movements (the New Agers, to put it simply), we need to be able to communicate and to understand their motives, questions, needs. The first question therefore is: what is in essence good and can be kept – what do we have in common? Only after that, we can address the second question: where are the differences, and what should we reject?

Robert suggests we should focus on four issues:

  • Christian, hospitable communities (‘belonging before believing’)
  • Expectancy of the Holy Spirit moving ahead of us
  • Cultivating spiritual life and pursuit of holiness
  • Invest in Christian spiritual leadership

Interesting stuff, and very relevant. If you want to read more of Robert – see here for an example.

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